Friday, December 23, 2011

Brick chicken drizzled with pomegranate-cider sauce

There's nothing I love more than crispy chicken skin. It is just addictive. When my parents peel the skin off their chicken, I want to howl at them and ask them "WHY???!!" Instead, I just reach over and snatch the poor tossed skin and pop the crunchy goodness into my mouth.

Brick chicken is a beautiful fall/winter dish that you can put together relatively easily and pain free. It is also much better on your thighs and stomach during this holiday season full of baked goods. I love all the festive green and red from the brussel sprouts and pomegranate seeds. The sauce may appear to be a little too tangy; but when you pair it along with a piece of chicken, parsnip, brussel sprout and pomegranate, it is perfect.

Make this dish for an untraditional, casual holiday dinner.

Serves 2

4 pieces whole chicken leg
5 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tbsp olive oil
1 parsnip, peeled and medium diced
1/4 lb brussel sprouts, halved & ends trimmed
1 pomegranate, seeded and juices reserved (approx 2 tbsp)
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
1/8 cup apple cider
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Pinch of salt and freshly ground mixed peppercorns

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Oil 1 tbsp per chicken on both sides. Add 1 sprig of thyme for each chicken. Using a cast iron pan or something heavy, sit it on top of the chicken to press down. Cook in oven for 30-35 minutes.

3. On separate baking sheet, toss parsnip, brussel sprouts, thyme leaves, salt and pepper with olive oil. Cook in oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

4. In a small saucepan, add pomegranate juice (fresh and bottled), cider, salt and pepper. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Add vinegar and 3 tbsp pomegranate seeds, then lower heat to simmer. Cook for 5 more minutes until slightly thickened. It will still be pretty thin.

6. To plate, mound a helpful of the brussel sprout-parsnip in the middle of a plate. Top with 2 pieces of chicken per plate. Add 1/2 tbsp seed over and peel a few outer leaves from brussel sprouts to scatter over plate. Drizzle sauce over chicken. Serve immediately.

Happy holidays everyone! Here a few holiday photos from around the city to get you in the spirit in case you aren't yet

Enjoy your holiday feasts with family and/or friends wherever you are.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Espresso Hot Cocoa

One of the favorite things I look forward to once the temperatures start dropping is hot cocoa. There's something just inherently Christmas-y about it. The rich chocolate smell and the bobbing white fluffy marshmallows can instantly put me in the holiday spirit and brings back childhood memories of my mom making my sister and I hot cocoa from packets of Swiss Miss.

Last weekend, my parents and I spent our Saturday helping my sister and Brent decorate their new home for their first Christmas.

And boy did we go all out! Digging through boxes of ornaments, oohing and ahhing over them as they are revealed, untangling lights, rehanging the lights twice, hanging each ornament perfectly, and stringing bell door hangers is exhausting though.  So, all of that hard work called for a mid-hot cocoa break!
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!
Brent kindly offered to make us his home-made hot cocoa to revive our flagging spirits.  While there were no marshmallows, it was definitely a home run that was made all the better with a shot of espresso and finished off with a little chocolate log of pure hedonism. For an even more over the top twist, I would add a shot of bourbon or Grand Marnier. Now THAT is what I call holiday cheer!

Thank you Brent for sharing this classic recipe with me and all my readers! Happy holidays to everyone!!

Makes 5 9-oz servings

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup Hershey's or Ghiradelli cocoa powder
Dash salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups skim milk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
4 shots espresso
Dash of cinnamon
Marshmallows or chocolate log to garnish (optional)

1. Whisk together cocoa, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in water. Heat over medium until boiling. Add milk, continue whisking together and remove all lumps. Do not let boil or the milk will burn.

2. Remove from heat and add vanilla, espresso and cinnamon. Using a handheld foamer, create a slight froth.

3. Pour into 5 mugs and top with garnish of your choice. Turn on your favorite holiday movie and enjoy!!
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even the dog.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Pop Rock" Cupcakes

Those of you who have never heard of pop rocks, go out there and grab a pack now! Just for giggles if nothing else.

Pop rocks were something I grew up on as a kid. It comes a shiny black packet in all these bright fun neon colors with "Pop Rocks" jumping right at you. My favorite thing to do was to rip open the bag and pour the entire thing into my mouth. Then, the magical explosion of these candy rock crystals would start popping everywhere within my mouth causing me a little pain which I gleefully bore. Hitting the top of my mouth, sides, down into my tonsils and bouncing all the way into my head it was simply the best thing...EVER.

So when I saw them for the first time in about 15 years in the Target $1 bin, I had to grab the pack of 3 immediately. Originally, I was going to just eat them straight from the pack like when I was a child. But, then I started brainstorming and decided they would make a wonderful surprise treat for Thanksgiving.

I am not a baker even though I enjoy it. So I used Amy Sedaris' cupcake recipe as a base and riffed off it. You can use vanilla extract, but the vanilla beans add a richer taste and looks so pretty with all the little seeds.

The vanilla bean cupcake base with the fluffy cream cheese frosting was the perfect foil for the berry flavored pop rocks. It is a sensory experience. As your guests bring the cupcake towards their mouth, they get a whiff of the vanilla. When they first hear the crackle, you'll get a strange look from your guests. Then the first bite into the moist cupcake...silence and slow chewing as they try to figure out what exactly is going on. And lastly, the smiles and giggles as one person finally asks: "What is on this cupcake?!?!!" Truly, the most fun eating a cupcake!

I hope you enjoy the experience as much as we all did. Just make sure to top them on the cupcakes right before serving as they lose all of their magical pop after about 10 minutes and melt into a gooey pink mess.
Adapted from Amy Sedaris' recipe
Makes 12

For cupcakes:
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 fresh vanilla bean, cut in half and scrape seeds out
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups milk
2 packets pop rocks

For cream cheese frosting:
1/2 stick low fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cupcake pan with paper holders.

2. Add butter to mixer and beat at medium speed until somewhat smooth. Pour in sugar and eggs, mix well.

3. Then, add vanilla beans, baking powder, salt, flour and milk. Mix thoroughly and use an ice cream scooper to evenly distribute the mixture among the lined cups. Bake for 20 minutes until golden on top. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

4. In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to whip the cream cheese. Slowly add in powdered sugar. When incorporated, add juice. Continue whipping for another minute until it is mixed. Cover and reserve until ready to use.

5. Frost each cupcake to your liking. I am not a big frosting person, so I usually only have a pretty thin layer.  If you want to make it look prettier, feel free to use a piping bag.  I just used an icing knife to smooth it over.

6. Top with pop rocks and serve immediately.